How has the pandemic impacted your business? Which are the major hardships you are facing? What about opportunities?
During the pandemic the entire luxury business has been impacted tremendously, even globally, and not just ours. The buying sentiment is a little low for now in terms of Indian clients. Cashflows have been hit for many businesses just like ours. For the first time, Swiss luxury watch exports for instance, have seen their most historical fall in 80 years.
The upside for retailers like us, however, was that in the early months of the lockdown — India had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world for about two months and retail was impacted by nearly five months of malls being inoperable — a lot of Indians were at home and not able to travel internationally and so bought luxury locally.
But as lockdowns around the world eased, luxury buyers from India almost immediately started going back to Dubai which had very aggressive marketed itself to Indian travellers. The experience of shopping there is unparalleled with their mega stores and malls and proximity to India means many Indians can flock there on short haul flights of just three from major cities.
Where we see the opportunity is in tapping wealthy Indians live in tier-II and III towns of India and don’t generally have access to luxury malls. The Covid-19 pandemic has made it even harder for many Indians to move around.
Since India’s luxury malls are largely concentrated in the top metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai, we think Indian luxury sellers should focus on omni-channel selling too. These customers are untapped opportunity and very well versed with trends because they spend time researching online and make infrequent trips to big cities to binge shop for their favourite luxury brands.
2. Shopping abroad has always posed challenges for local luxury retailers? Is this changing as more international brands open mono-brand stores in India?
Traditionally this has been India’s biggest challenge. It is a well-known fact that ultra-high net worth individuals in India buy abroad. But our customers aren’t just these customers. We are targeting the burgeoning middle class of young aspirational Indians who may perhaps just buy one or two products once a year for a celebration but end up going to their local luxury stores to do so.
Yes, mono-brand plays a pivotal role in this scenario because it gives the complete brand experience to the customer once inside the store. The customer is then sure that they are getting the most genuine, authentic experience that money can buy.
3. What about luxury shopping online?
Luxury shopping online is practically non-existent in India with just a scattering of players who generally recycle bulk-bought old stock from the West. But I do feel there is a huge potential in this space if someone is able to successfully amalgamate together, a multi-brand local store along with a brand. Many people in smaller town India have access to websites like FarFetch.
4. Across the brands you are representing, you have quite a different consumer target. Tell us more.
We have handpicked every single brand we have on our portfolio. If you notice, they all complement each other rather than compete with each other. Berluti and Brunello Cucinelli blend beautifully for instance, they both cater to the suave, ultra-high net worth individual who can pay big ticket prices. Saint Laurent and Tod’s are accessible to a larger number of customers who are looking for big, bold brands. Creed, Molton Brown, even Apple (we own and operate iWorld Apple premium reseller stores). Our retail strategy has been curated in such a way that our brands don’t clash with each other. We leverage and scale customers from across our entire portfolio to try out some of our other brands.
5. To what extent are wealthy Indian consumers driven by the quality of materials and craftsmanship rather than seasonal trends? Are they considering purchases as investments?
The answer to this question entirely depends on the categories in question. India is very strong in terms of investments in watches and jewellery because they consider them as heirloom pieces or collections for the long term. A lot of Indian families around weddings spend extravagantly on these items especially during bridal trousseau shopping.
Seasoned or mature luxury buyers tend to spend more on fashion and leather goods keeping craftsmanship at the hilt and that’s what drives a lot of purchases for them. Berluti for instance, is a great choice for such discerning customers.
But many businesses leverage branding and aggressively marketing here which a lot of new age, younger buyers tend to spend on in India. A monogrammed canvas bag for instance, will sell much more in place of a high quality leather or alligator or shoe has branding. Many such buyers tend to overlook or disregard craftsmanship and material.
6. With the pandemic, do luxury consumers have different expectations? MatchesFashion, so why not an Indian player itself who can do this successfully?
Yes, post-pandemic, most customers even in the luxury space — especially a lot of women– are taking to online shopping much more and are actively looking for omni-channel platforms to buy luxury from. In luxury shopping in India, this was unimaginable until even a year ago. We have made our brands available online for some time now and that helps them not only discover the prices but also reserve the pieces in advance.
We are also working on a project that is very close to our hearts which will integrate our offline learnings and curate products and brand mix and present them solely to our Indian customer, no matter which part of the world they’re sitting in. Our product portfolio will be driven by our Indian clients’ tastes and liking. We are very excited about this and will unveil it in coming months. This will be at par with in terms of look and appeal with global online competitors as well as keep the relevance alive for our offline stores.
7. What is the profile of your returning customer? Are wealthy Indians loyal to brands?
In addition to targeting ultra HNIs and our profile of returning customers, we are also targeting the exciting category of HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet). They are professionals aspirational customers or they are the new middle-class mass-affluent in India. They’re a burgeoning lot and are aged anywhere between 30-40 years. These are the same people who get us the multi-fold volume by buying just one or two items a year.
8. What is your view on the infrastructure for luxury retail in India?
We feel luxury infrastructure in the country is still up and coming. A limited amount of quality luxury real estate makes retailers and shoppers dependant on select properties in the two major markets in Delhi and Mumbai. How interesting would it be if many more luxury brands could try to step out of their comfort zone here and open in high street locations like how Hermes and Christian Louboutin did in Mumbai. A similar route can quite easily be taken in Delhi or other cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Ludhiana etc., from where a lot of demand comes. We understand that it is difficult for brands to control surrounding environment in such scenarios, but a start needs to be made. For instance, there are some stellar locations like the Khan Market in Delhi or Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad just waiting to be tapped.
And this is especially true after Covid-19 where people far more comfortable and confident in high street shops than in closed off malls.
Presently, New Delhi (where we majorly operate) has two malls that are classified as luxury malls: the DLF Emporio and another one by the same builder: The Chanakya. While Emporio is fully functional, The Chanakya, being a newer entity launched in 2018, isn’t fully operational and very much in its nascent stages. We have some exciting plans and will be expanding to Mumbai next with some new partnerships in our kitty.
9. Do you plan to expand your brand portfolio?
Yes, we are actively approaching and looking at partnering with the right brands which are scalable in the Indian market across categories. In the luxury segment we are keenly looking at fashion, watches, fragrances and accessory brands. In fast fashion, we are evaluation brands that are high scalable in the country to add to our portfolio. Very soon you will be hearing about some excellent companies coming on board with us.
10. What makes you and your company the ideal partner / distributor for luxury brands in India?
We don’t aspire to be the biggest partner in the market but aspire to be the most desired partner. We are family owned and run and make sure we give time and attention to our brands, giving them access to the right location, customers as well as resources to operate here.
Gaganmeet Singh’s rise in the luxury space has been inexorable. In less than a decade, the business innovator and entrepreneur has been instrumental in bringing the best in class luxe brands to India. Gaganmeet has propelled the future of luxury brands in India using his poise and savoir faire. In no time, the luxury labels he has brought to India have adapted and oriented towards the appetite of Indian consumer.
Gaganmeet has been instrumental in curating BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP’s luxury brand portfolio, paving the path for the topmost eclectic businesses to come to the country. BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP has ushered in marquee brands like LVMH Group’s Berluti as well as Saint Laurent, part of Kering Group.
Tod’s, Brunello Cucinelli, Creed and Molton Brown also gild the prestigious portfolio of the group. The company’s luxury brands sit at India’s premier luxury malls, DLF Emporio and The Chanakya in New Delhi.
Gaganmeet is a strong admirer of sophisticated craftsmanship and is revolutionising the accepted luxury order here. The artistry of the brands that he has curated are driven by sophistication and efficiency, which are also the core principles of BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP.
Bringing in best in class brands and products to meld with synergies of the jet setting Indian, Gaganmeet says that selling luxury products is about selling emotions and so, his expertise lies in building curated strategies for each of the group’s luxury brands here.
Gaganmeet enjoys his free time globetrotting with his family and appreciates the occasional game of golf and is a trained equestrian. He’s interested in motorsports and is an avid watch appreciator and keeps a strong eye on the watch world.
About BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP:
BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP is a privately held firm that offers a retail gateway to leading luxury brands from across the globe. In less than a decade, the business has brought an eclectic mix of brands to the country’s top luxury malls. BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP is the exclusive Indian distribution partner of iconic global personal technology brand Apple Inc; LVMH Group’s French handcrafted shoe business Berluti; French major Saint Laurent by Kering Group; Italian luxury brands Brunello Cucinelli and TOD’S; leading British lifestyle businesses including beauty brand Molton Brown and legacy fragrance business, House of Creed.
The brand has experience in managing brands like Bang & Olufsen. The company has also inked exclusive deals with German fashion designer to bring its brands PHILIPP PLEIN and Billionaire to India. BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP will also be managing Roberto Cavalli.
BQUEST INDIA LUXURY GROUP is headquartered in New Delhi led by Tript Singh and Gaganmeet Singh. The business employs over 200 people across the country.
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